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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Killing Kennedy is a drama focused on the last few months of the lives of President Kennedy and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. We see Kennedy's death, both in historical footage and in dramatic reenactments, with blood, screaming onlookers, and devastated family members. Oswald also kills a police officer and attempts to shoot another political figure. We see domestic violence and the aftermath. JFK flirts and cavorts with women, including in one scene in a pool where a woman's appears naked from the back. Expect a bit of strong language and scenes of drinking and minor drunkenness.
What's the story?
When John F. Kennedy was inaugurated in 1961, his idealistic fans thought he would usher in a new era of peace and love. Instead, he spent a bumpy couple of years as president and then was killed in cold blood while touring through Dallas. In KILLING KENNEDY, we get to know Kennedy as well as his assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, a peculiar man with a burning hatred for American imperialist politics. Oswald can't hold down a job, abuses his wife, and harbors paranoid fantasies that he's being watched by the FBI. For his part, JFK's no saint either: He cheats on his wife and blusters his way through domestic crises, using the fate of the entire world as a bluff. The destinies of these two men collide in November 1963, and we watch helplessly.
Is it any good?
Killing Kennedy's strength is in helping us know Oswald better (whether the viewer agrees that he was JFK's acting-alone assassin or not). By now, the beats of the Kennedy story are familiar to even the most casual student of history: The Bay of Pigs. The Cuban Missile Crisis. Floozies giggling their way through the corridors of the White House. And then the terrible shots that rang out over the plaza and ended Camelot's reign forever.
We are with Oswald when he meets his wife and idealistically defects to the USSR, renouncing his U.S. citizenship. We are with him, too, as he returns to the U.S. and starts his downward spiral: playing with guns in the garage, scissoring out ominous newspaper clippings, belting his wife in the face. It's creepy stuff and plenty disturbing even while the rest of the film is rather pedestrian. The movie is straightforward, though, and would be a fine one for teens to watch if they're doing a report or school project on Kennedy.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the real JFK assassination. Does everyone agree that Oswald was his assassin and that he worked alone? What do you think? Does watching Killing Kennedy make you want to know more?
Is the viewer supposed to like and identify with JFK? What about Oswald? What about Jackie Kennedy? What about the ways in which they're presented bring you to your conclusions?
Themes & Topics
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